Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rivers, Roads and Rails: An Interactive Puzzle

Rivers, Roads and Rails is a game published by Ravenburger, first in 1984, then 1989 and finally in 2011! Unbelievable.

This might be an example of why I have to limit my trips to the thrift shop…just because something is a good deal does not mean it deserves a place on your shelf.

The Ravenburger label should be pretty familiar with most people my age. During the typical 80's childhood, among the likes of the AMAZEing Labyrinth and the Enchanted Forest were many other boxes carrying the blue triangle. Most titles were not traditional games, but more like interactive puzzles.

Designed to stimulate a young child's mind into greater growth, very few of them were particularly competitive and the end game goal was loosely explored at best.

Rivers, Roads and Rails is such a game.

Each player starts with an initial pile of 10 tiles. The game then proceeds like a traditional tile-laying game, with each player trying to place a tile that matches either end of the growing combination of rivers, roads or rails.

Tiles have to match exactly, and if you don't have a tile you can play in one of the two spots (although a third spot can open up if you draw the very-rare branch card) you have to draw a tile. If you do succeed in playing a tile and you have less than 10 tiles, you have to draw a tile.

So your pile of tiles will continue either as 10 or slightly greater than 10 for the rest of the game, until the box runs out of new tiles to replenish your tiles. Then the first player to run out of tiles wins.

Unlike many of these games, Rivers, Roads and Rails has a more cut-throat variant. "Roadblock" starts with a predefined perimeter that tiles cannot cross. When someone is unable to continue the game ends, and the player with the fewest number of tiles wins. You shorten the number of tiles people get, which in turn shortens the game length. It almost gets to feeling like a modern board game. There are aficionados.

But there are just much better games. I would never try to play this with adults. I will however gladly play with my kids, and they do occasionally suggest it.

notice, we aren't playing with any crazy 10 tile pile either!

That's because kids love games irregardless of goodness. And they don't mind packing it up and quitting halfway through, which you are guaranteed to do with Rivers, Roads and Rails. But before that   happens you can spend some time building a little free-form puzzle, and watch all the little tiles spin off in different directions like the world's most distracted snake.

If I have any say in the matter, I would rather play Tsuro with the kids or Carcassonne with adults. But I have a feeling this bright orange box is going to be on my shelf for a long time.

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